How to Do the Shoulder Bridge in Pilates

The Shoulder Bridge is an advanced Pilates exercise that develops strength and stability throughout the core muscles of the body (the powerhouse). It also strengthens the pelvic floor, the thighs, and the buttocks. The back-bending motion also helps increase spinal flexibility and mobility. The Shoulder Bridge will help you develop balance, focus, and concentration. Similar to the yoga pose called “One-Legged Bridge Pose”, the Shoulder Bridge will help you develop balance, focus, and concentration. Avoid practicing this move if you have an injury to the back, wrist, knee, or elbow.


  1. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Your feet and knees should be parallel and hip-width apart, and your spine should be in neutral position. Do not press your back flat into the mat. Let your arms relax along the sides your body.
  2. Inhale and prepare to move.
  3. On an exhalation, scoop your abs and engage your pelvic floor as you tuck your tailbone beneath you. Starting at your pelvis, roll your spine up toward the ceiling, one vertebra at a time. Raise your hips until you can comfortably place your hands beneath them. Place each hand beneath the same-side hip. Your fingertips should be along the outside of your body and your wrists should be above your elbows.
  4. Holding this pose, strongly engage your core muscles and draw your navel in toward your spine.
  5. On an inhalation, squeeze your buttocks, extend your right leg forward, point your toes, and then raise your leg straight up toward the ceiling until it is perpendicular to the floor. Your back should not be arched.
  6. Once your leg is completely raised, flex your foot and exhale, and then lower your leg until it’s a few inches above the floor. Keep your chest lifted throughout the movement.
  7. Complete up to five leg extensions before returning your right foot to the mat in its original starting position.
  8. Repeat the leg extensions with your left leg, and then return your left foot to the mat. To release, exhale and roll your spine back down to the mat, one vertebra at a time.

“As small bricks are employed to build large buildings, so will the development of small muscles help develop large muscles. Therefore, when all your muscles are properly developed you will, as a matter of course, perform your work with minimum effort and maximum pleasure.”

Joseph H. Pilates

Modifications & Tips

The Shoulder Bridge will create strength, suppleness, and stability throughout your entire back. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this exercise:

  • Work toward keeping your hips lifted and unmoving throughout the exercise.
  • Keep your abs scooped and your buttocks engaged throughout the move.
  • Do not let your back arch or sink during the leg movements. Keep your spine lifted and long.
  • Press firmly into your standing leg to maintain balance.
  • Do not lower your extended leg all the way to the floor.
  • Synchronize your breath with your movement.

Shoulder Your Strength

Practicing the Shoulder Bridge will help you develop strength, balance, and stability throughout your whole body. Remember to breathe smoothly and evenly throughout the exercise, and do no more than five repetitions with each leg. By moving with precision and awareness, you will gain poise and grace that will positively affect the rest of your Pilates practice!

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